About

BSS-Support was formed in February 2019 by four of the directors of Boarding Concern. Our aim is to ensure support is available for former boarders who were sent away from home as children and find the experience has been damaging.

BSS-Support:

  • Believes sending children away to boarding school can harm their emotional development
  • Supports former boarders addressing boarding issues they become aware of in their adult lives
  • Supports partners and family members of former boarders
  • Gives help and information about possible boarding issues to prospective boarding parents
  • Supports research into the effects of boarding
  • Publishes books and articles on boarding issues
  • Responds to press enquiries and enquiries from the public about boarding issues
  • Holds regular conferences addressing present and former boarders’ issues
  • Publishes regular newsletters
  • Welcomes contact and letters sent to us and respond to all enquiries confidentially
  • Above all, helps former boarders concerned about their time at school know that they are not alone.
  • If you have experienced child sexual abuse or have any issues with this in connection with boarding school, if you write to us we are able to put you in touch with people and organisations that are appropriately experienced and qualified to offer 

In memory of, Crispin.

Sadly, Crispin Ellison, one of the Boarding School Survivors-Support founder-Directors, died on 30th August after a long illness with Motor Neuron Disease.

After school he trained as a Social Worker and then worked, for about 30 years, in Legacy Management very successfully raising money for many and various charities.

Alongside this work, Crispin had contact with us for some years only through the exchange of letters which feels very poignant as he was sent to boarding school at the age of 12, when, for his 6 years away, weekly letters were the only source of contact with his family and friends .

He has written about that time in his life which he found sad and puzzling. He wrote: ‘only at age 44 did I realise that the experience of being sent away to boarding school had been the greatest factor in how I lived and felt about myself …’.

For us, boarding school is the reason we knew him.

In 2003 Crispin brought many of those thoughts and feelings with him when, after some trepidation, he joined our organization to be in touch with the many people who shared his childhood experiences of boarding.

From those first early days he was glad to have found others who felt as he did and from the start was very involved and generous in helping to establish the new organization. Our aims were to support those, who in adulthood, carried in their lives the legacy of their boarding years and who wanted to make those issues known for the benefit of future generations.

After the years of contact only by letter we had the great bonus of meeting Crispin at our Conferences, while he met others who worked alongside him at Nick Duffell’s Boarding School Survivors Men’s Workshops.

It was a wonderful moment when, in 2014, Crispin agreed to be a director of the organization. We then had almost daily contact, talked once a month and met 3 or 4 times a year.

He brought with him great insights and wisdom to both our day-to-day work and to major decisions we had to make. He did this with a wonderfully consistent source of great kindness and gentleness at the same time as sharing his many very great strengths.

He would always look at any problem we were discussing, pause, ponder, see through all mire and arrive at straight forward solutions which we so greatly admired, appreciated and relied on.

He also brought to our table two main pieces of work. His past experiences of fund raising expertise – which he used to the full with great generosity and involvement – and his total support for the idea of a book. These enabled us to move forward and then submit for publishing, a Book of Men’s boarding experiences. We are waiting to hear if it has been accepted by a well known publisher. When the book is published it will be dedicated to his memory.

His illness was a time of huge sadness to us but he continued working as before with resolution, laughter and commitment. He was an example to us all.

During this time he hosted our day-long meetings in his and Ilana’s lovely house in Hove and they are times we will always remember with joy. He continued working with us into August in spite of great physical difficulty. He always showed huge courage and openness and the same erudite wisdom and thoughtfulness which we had come to know so well.

We all miss him now… and we will continue to do so as we remember him and his work with love, and with deep thankfulness that we had the great good fortune to have known him.


Margaret Laughton, co-founder

Until I was 8 years old I did not attend school and I lived in the love and warmth of India. Being sent to Boarding School on returning to England was alien to ‘normal’ living. I found the lack of any privacy, the strict timing, and the loss of quiet thinking spaces all devastatingly awful. But what can a small child do except conform? My first lesson in the survival process was learning to hide sadness, as tears were a signal for both reprimand and bullying. I decided to cope alone so that I could not be hurt.

Those major and powerful strategies were in place after just one term and the effects of adopting them endured into all aspects of my adult life. After school I worked as a paediatric physiotherapist for many years, as one of the several jobs and projects I simultaneously undertook. When I was 54 I realised I was using work as the left-over survival from school and I took the major step of starting therapy to look at my boarding issues. I left all previous work, went to University and started working as a volunteer at Childline. I continued to work there for 10 years moving on to be a member of staff.  

In 2003 Nick Duffell asked me to join his work which he had started to support former boarders. Since that time I have felt very privileged to know, meet, and reply to, hundreds of former boarders and have contact with the families of former and present boarders. Each of us has our own childhood story but we do all have the common ground of being sent away to boarding school. I have found being part of this group has given me great peace by removing my sense of isolation… and my hope is that Boarding School Survivors -Support is able to give you the support and information that you seek… and the same very real sense of ease.

Allison Paech, co-founder

Allison Paech was a high school teacher in the private system for 20 years, including in Boarding Schools in Australia, England and Canada. She was very aware of boarding culture and was especially aware of issues in single sex institutions. During the field research towards her PhD in social psychology, she conducted interviews in six single sex boarding schools for boys. What became very apparent was how brittle and vulnerable many boys appeared, despite their supposed self- confidence. Having made these observations, she became very interested in the work of Nick Duffell and Boarding School Survivors and became involved in the organisation and its work since 2006.  She strongly believes children sent to institutions need to have their voices heard.

Sam Barber, co-founder

I attended boarding schools 1991 – 2001. Having sought psychotherapy since 2006, I came to realise the contribution of boarding schools and being sent away at eight to my difficulties. As a consequence, I have sought to raise awareness of the psychological dangers of boarding schools and to help others who might have been through similar difficulties to me. I am an Alexander Technique teacher and I also volunteer as a horticultural therapist. I enjoy music and sports. 

Lech Mintowt-Czyz

I was sent to boarding school at the relatively-late age of 12. There were many things about the school that were good, but I found my time away from home profoundly distressing. I began to realise the damage that had been done during that time when I was in my late 20s. Nick Duffell’s book, “The Making of Them”, was a revelation to me and was also a great comfort. I found further kindness, understanding and support when I took part in the conferences run by the founders of BSS-Support. I worked for many years as a news journalist before switching careers and becoming a speechwriter. I also write books for children (none published… yet).

Paul Fray

I was sent away to boarding school at the age of eight. While I was successful at school, I hated being away from home and dreaded the beginning of term right up until I left aged
18.

I did not realise the effect boarding had had on me until I was in my 40s, when my own children went to a boarding school as day boys. It was the reminder of my time at school that brought up unmanageable feelings that I had to seek help with. A combination of Nick Duffell’s Boarding School Survivors weekends and nine years of one-to-one therapy brought me to an understanding of what had happened to me and how it continued to affect my life. Exchanging experiences with other Boarding School Survivors continues to be a great help in bringing some acceptance, and it provides pointers to ways of living with the emotional and developmental damage I have suffered.

Boarding school changed me for life, and not in a good way. I now know what happened to me, and I know how to recognise the effects when they appear – and I manage it successfully, I think.

My career has been in scientific research, computer manufacturing and business management. Now retired, I am busier than ever with a number of projects in business, the arts and, of course, Boarding School Survivors – Support.

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